Thursday, October 1, 2009

Interesting Find on Lacy Clay

My friends, I have been asking myself some questions. One of those questions is "Who is the Association of Progressive Rental Organizations and why do they donate so much money to Lacy Clay?" To answer that question, I started doing some digging.

The Association of Progressive Rental Organizations or
APRO is a group of rent to own businesses and their associated political action committee. According to their own site they are...

"the international voice for the rent-to-own industry founded in 1980. APRO is
the nonprofit trade association advocating and representing the rent-to-own
industry before the U.S. Congress, Internal Revenue Service, state legislatures,
the courts, media and the public."
So basically this is a group of companies like National Rent to Own and Aaron's to name a few. Knowing this, I had to start asking myself, why would they donate $5000 to his re-election campaign. What makes Lacy Clay so important to them.

In March 2007, Clay introduced H.R. 1767 the Consumer Rental Purchase Agreement Act. This bill did not make it through and was reintroduced as H.R. 1744 in 2009. On the surface, the law reads as a consumer protection act, requiring rent to own companies state their rental policies etc. I started thinking, why would APRO be so supportive of this law. In essence, H.R. 1744 would establish a federal law that makes rent to own a self-terminable lease.

OK, so what. We need a federal law to establish rent to owns as a self terminable lease? Why? And as I dig more into this, why do I find out that the APRO:

  • Had their annual convention in Lacy Clay's distrinct in downtown St. Louis in 2008 at which time they had Lacy Clay as a key note speaker. It should be noted that Lacy's wife, Ivie, is a director for the St. Louis Development Corporation which is charged with bringing commerce to the St. Louis region.

  • Donated 28 new computers to Imagine Middle High School College Prep on North Jefferson Avenue in downtown St. Louis.

  • Donated $50,000 worth of cash and products to the Congressional Black Caucus Spouses Education Scholarship Fund. Of course we know that Lacy is and his father was the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.

  • Sponsored the William L. Clay Scholarship and Research Golf Tournament for $14,000. As we know, Lacy is the chairman of the board for this fund which was created in honor of his father.

So as I did into this, and there is not a lot out there on this bill. So I sat down and read the bill (HR 1744) and found:

  • It sets the Federal Trade Commission as the governing body of rent to own businesses and requires state attorney generals to provide written notice to the FTC before any action can be taken. In addition, it allows the FTC to intervene in any and all cases. Gosh, maybe it is just me but doesn't that seem like overkill. Why wouldn't we want a state attorney to be able to prosecute a rent to own business? Why would we want to make it a federal case?

  • It sets a standard that if a state law is considered inconsistent by the Federal Reserve based upon submission of an "interested party" the law does not have to be followed by the businesses in that state.

  • It nullifies any state law that regulates a rental-purchase agreement as a security interest, credit sale, retail installment sale, conditional sale or any other form of consumer credit, or that imputes to a rental-purchase agreement the creation of a debt or extension of credit.

  • It nullifies any state law that requires the disclosure of a percentage rate calculation, including a time-price differential, an annual percentage rate, or an effective annual percentage rate.

So why would Lacy Clay want to do all of this for the rent to own industry in St. Louis. For someone who claims to be concerned about the welfare of his constituents, this does not look like it has any benefit to them at all. When you consider that based upon APRO's own data, 97% of their client base makes under $75,000 a year and a little over 65% have the equivalent of only a high school degree or less, you would think he would want to do anything he can to protect these people. Apparently not.

Once again, this just goes to show you that Lacy Clay is not looking out for his constituents. He is looking out for himself and his personal interests. Who knows where else this interesting relationship goes. As always, I will continue to dig.

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